Scientists Feverishly Defend Vaccines after Measles Outbreak

1321321They say Disneyland is the “happiest place on earth”. But over the last month, the theme park has become the epicenter of a major measles outbreak.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 121 Americans across 17 states contracted measles between January 1 and February 6. At least 103 cases (or 85%) are linked to a California woman who became contagious at Disneyland. She later spread the virus further by traveling to Washington state.

The outbreak has raised concerns across the US. After all, the CDC describes measles—which can cause pneumonia and encephalitis—as “the most deadly of all childhood rash/fever illness”. To make matters worse, the virus is highly contagious. Transmitted via coughing and sneezing, it can survive for up to 2 hours on surfaces and infect 90% of unvaccinated people nearby. As a result, an estimated 20 million people contract measles worldwide every year.

In the US, however, the disease has become relatively rare. For over 40 years, public health officials have administered a 97% effective Mumps, Measles, Rubella (MMR) vaccine, mostly to children and college students. Thus, the average number of measles cases has dropped to 62 per year (from 2001 – 2011).

But here’s a bitter pill to swallow: the trend appears to be reversing. A rumor linking vaccines and autism, spread by people like Jenny McCarthy and discredited doctor Andrew Wakefield, has triggered a growing anti-vaccination movement in the US. This is producing “large pockets of unvaccinated children through whom epidemics can spread further”. In fact, in 2014, 79% of US measles cases involving those unvaccinated due to “personal belief”.

This “anti-vaxx” movement has scientists in a fever pitch. Dr. Natasha Crowcroft, Chief of Infectious Disease with Public Health Ontario, says “There is absolutely no evidence at all” that vaccines cause autism. Dr. Anne Schuchat, Director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, adds “This is not a problem with the measles vaccine…This is a problem of the measles vaccine not being used“. Indeed, “The anti-vaccine movement has turned this public health victory into defeat”.

Still, perhaps some good can come from the latest measles outbreak. In California, for example, parents are waking up to the danger of the anti-vaxx movement and are “pushing back“. This has prompted certain schools to send unvaccinated children home. In other states, like Mississippi and West Virginia, governments have banned parents from refusing vaccinations for their children on philosophical/religious grounds.

To learn more about the measles outbreak, or about the MMR vaccination, please contact our partners, Healthy Lifestyle Choices, the Virginia Association of Free Clinics, and the International Red Cross.


Flickr photo credit: Evan Long 


Super Bowl XLIX. More than just the National Football League’s championship

There was much more at stake during Super Bowl XLIX than just the National Football League’s championship. While the New England Patriots are the biggest winner, NBC, Katy Perry, and Budweiser also could make the claim that they are going to Disney World.

A post-Super Bowl survey shows that 76.2% of the 1,000 adults polled watched the game in its entirety, which is a massive win for the network that carried the game, NBC. A minuscule 4.7% of the same people said they only watched halftime, with 19.1% saying they watched just a portion of the game.

Those people that skipped most of the game missed out on a serious nail biter. 54.2% are calling the Patriots vs. Seahawks their favorite closely matched Super Bowl of all time. Only Super Bowl XLII, featuring this year’s champion Patriots against the New York Giants and the now infamous David Tyree catch, came close, bringing in 21.5% of the vote.

According to Facebook, Super Bowl XLIX was the most talked about Super Bowl on the massive social network ever. 65 million people posted 265 million posts related to the NFL’s showcase game, which is up from 50 million last year. Those surveyed were very close at guessing the Facebook activity, as 32.1% believed it hit 55 million people. The 23.3% that picked 65 million are very in tune with the news and nailed that figure right on the head.

While there were several complaints and much mockery over the many depressing commercials aired during the game, there were still plenty of enjoyable ads. The Budweiser-Best Buds ran away with the choice as most inspirational, grabbing 51.7%. This total doubled up some other favorites mentioned, such as the or Always #LikeAGirl commercials.

It was a two way race regarding the funniest commercial. The Snickers-Brady Bunch commercial, featuring Danny Trejo and Steve Buscemi, snagged 49.8% and Liam Neeson’s ad for Clash of Clans came in at 31.5%.

Lindsay Lohan’s car crash Esurance ad was also in the mix, proving that most people enjoy it when celebrities engage in self parody.

When given the choice of John Legend’s “America the Beautiful”and Idina Menzel’s “National Anthem”, Legend came out way ahead. 58.5% liked Legend’s performance more than Menzel’s, prompting many people to wonder why the NFL didn’t employ Legend to sing both songs.

While Katy Perry’s halftime performance may have had many viewers reaching for the color and/or tint dial on the television sets, 50.5% of viewers liked her the most of the three performers. Lenny Kravitz and Missy Elliott came in at virtually a tie, with respectively 25.3% and 24.2%.

Lastly, Twitter was also a big player during Super Bowl XLIX. Twitter claims there were 28.4 million Tweets from all over Earth related to the game and/or halftime show. When given the choice of four figures ranging from eight to 38 million, 34.5% correctly estimated the Twitter usage. 35.8% of those asked weren’t far off by guessing 38 million.

This study was conducted by Op4G’s online research panel from 1,000 adults and balanced according to gender, age, and region.